Mbuso Khoza plans to take theatergoers on a trip to Africa through music this week at the Joburg Theatre.
The celebrated musician whose love for culture and heritage can be heard in some of his hits songs including the recently released track Thando which he collaborates with the talented deejay, film and music producer Black Coffee.
Khoza will be joined on the Mandela stage by his band the Afrikan Heritage Ensemble, where the team will, in music demonstrate what Africa Day is. Africa, a rich continent with a painful and dark history has enjoyed little freedom, with much of existence was spent in freeing itself from foreign exploitation and domination. Many countries will take part in celebrating what is today known as Africa Day, which is really a celebration of what Africa and Africans have achieved in these past decades after many years of colonel rule.
In a statement, the versatile Khoza said that art is the most influential channel to make the intangible heritage felt. He said he uses it to also pursue the revival of Afrikan unity which he said is very important to use it without dividing our people.
“We continue to draw inspiration from our roots as we redefine our identity using the body of work bequeathed to us by our forebears in the arts, culture and intellectual disciplines. I believe that as an artist, my job is to mirror the views and feelings of my people – especially around the painful issue of Xenophobia. Africa Month serves as a tool to spread the message of patriotism and acceptance of one another as brothers and sisters, and with the universal language of music we want to contribute towards breaking these chains that bind us as brothers,” says Khoza.
According to the Joburg Theatre, this performance follows three consecutive sold-out performances in January 2019 where Khoza and the Afrikan Heritage Ensemble staged the first Isandlwana Lecture which was described as a first of its kind in the country.
Khoza together with his four-piece band will mesmerize those attending with a two-part performance. Patrons will enjoy 16 songs chosen from the band’s previous projects. “With the four-piece band, we shall present a selection of Africa-centric music consisting of both original compositions as well as other seminal works by other African giants including Salif Keita and Richard Bona,” says Khoza.
Khoza and The Afrikan Heritage Ensemble will give audiences an enchanting performance when they interpret Amahubo, the music from 17th century Southern Africa region, concretising this marriage of past and present with the view into the future.
The ensemble will also explore the relationship between Amahubo and the songs of struggle.
The Afrikan Heritage Ensemble has recorded two full albums of Amahubo with the latter featuring a decorated jazz pianist from Amsterdam, Netherlands Mike del Ferro.
“Those lucky enough to secure the tickets for the Joburg Theatre shows will be mesmerized by the vitality, originality and the stimulating qualities of this long-abandoned art-form whose relevance remains uncontested centuries later,” read the theatre’s statement.1
I’d like to think I’m writing this after seeing the best video category from this year’s South African Music Awards nomination’s list.But it was rather going through a friend’s external hard drive and coming across 2PAC’s How Do You Want It with the brothers K-Ci & JoJo.
It was the triple ‘X’ in the title of the video that got my attention. Bar the excitement my body couldn’t hide from seeing erotic scenes, I actually sat there pondering for what seemed like an eternity, on the paucity of X-rated versions of music videos.
I grew up in a time where tracks had two versions of the video, the dirty one and the clean version for prime time television. Artists still make clean versions of their songs for radio and will have the explicit joints on their albums. Dirty doesn’t only pertain to women gyrating their rears in front of the camera; it is what viewers deem offensive. Be it nudity, unpleasant language or the depiction of violence in a music video-and more.
Rapper Jay-Z found himself in some trouble for his 99 Problems video. Shot in Brooklyn, New York the video depicts life for niggers in the hood and the city. In the last scene, a defenceless Jigga is shot at multiple times on a sidewalk. It was viewed as something done in bad taste. So bad, that MTV would only broadcast the video with an introduction from Jay-Z explaining that it was a metaphorical death, not a real one. I know right, my eyes rolled too.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) designated their late hours to these explicit music videos, in a programme called BET Uncut. Uncut aired from 2001 till 2006, playing mostly Hip Hop videos with gross sexual imagery that had many teenagers risk getting an ass-whipping just to watch their favourite artists, next to some of the finest booty you’ll ever see.
A slew of explicit Hip Hop videos aired in those five years but nothing was raunchier than Nelly’s Tip Drill which saw dudes in throwback jerseys, du-rags and Air Forces at a house party that probably had three naked women for each fella in the video. I remember first seeing the video on a friend’s computer while in high school, with a grin on my face marvelling at why we never have such house parties when we decide to bunk school.
BET Uncut came to an end after many complaints about the show being distasteful and constituting soft porn. Rightfully so, it was.
In South Africa, artists play it safe. If they create videos which are polarizing, it’s usually for their “strong” tone on politics or social issues.
Last year a complaint came to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission South Africa (BCCSA) about Kwesta’s Spirit music video. The viewer’s grievance was about the slaughtering of chicken in some of the scenes. The rapper was also accused of trying to score political points by burning the old South African flag in the video.
In 2014 The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe’s rule, turned away South African band Freshly Ground as soon as they landed at the Harare International airport , with no reason as to why. But in 2010, the collective released Chicken to Change, mocking Mugabe’s stubborn grip to power since the country gained independence in 1980. Guess Uncle Bob couldn’t let them get away with what they did four years prior.
South Africa has banned more ads and artwork than it has music videos.
Music and videos that the average viewer might find offence, are not officially banned but ghosted. You wouldn’t find Die Antwoord’s videos on MTVBase, simply because a censored version would usurp the video of its punch.
The internet has given directors and artists the liberty in their video-making, to create without fear of being ostracized by mainstream media for their authenticity.
The creative freedom is refreshing,especially because for so long,men have dictated what images of women are shown. Now women can decide how they want to be seen, Beyoncé is a fine case in point.
Miles Davis once said time isn’t the main thing, but the only thing and had it not been for time, the band T.U.G wouldn’t have been unveiled. With a name like Time Unveils God, the significance and respect of time to this ensemble is apparent.
“I feel like time is the thing that connects us. Time connects the people who’ve come before, the future and us. It puts it in a line, and if you understand that line you pretty much understand the godliness about existence,” says Tony Dangler.
Made up of five black men; T.U.G is a Hip Hop collective with two emcees on vocals, Darkie Umnt’Omnyama and Tony Dangler with three masked fellas playing drums, acoustic and bass guitars. The three instrumentalist are unidentified, but elected to take up abbreviations from the band’s name, for the purpose of this interview. T plays the bass, U acoustic and G is the drummer.
“The important thing about time is that, we must work and make music for the people, heal them and carry on working,” bassist T, tells me.
“To me mfwethu, time is everything ya bo. Because everything happens in time. Time is lifetime. God is lifetime, there’s no start and there’s no ending,” adds G.
My photographer and I are welcomed by the scent of impepho, dank blunt and kindred spirits-I couldn’t help but embrace the calmness in T.U.G’s working space in Zondi, Soweto. I interview the band crammed on a couch, like TV-watching siblings. The masks bring a tad bit of awkwardness to the setting, as I struggle to make eye contact with the three players of the band.
“It’s the unveiling part-we’re unveiling what’s not unveiled in a way. In essence regarding music, it shouldn’t be about the guys in the background. With Hip Hop, it’s just the rapper and the beat, so we try to represent that,” says U, who is the co-founder of T.U.G.
“The mystery is kinda interesting as well. It leaves more room for people to think, ‘oh okay, I hear the raps, but what’s going on?’ and you end up not paying attention to us,” the guitarist adds.
Lebohang ‘Page’ More, Sun Xa Experiment’s manager, is the other co-founder. “We thought we should have two guys who aren’t the same, and luckily Tony is from PMB and uDarkie is from Jabulani and it made sense.”
It’s Hip Hop in that these kats rap, but more spiritual in the manner in which they present their art. Their music talks to identity and all round knowledge of self as an African child. According to Page, they had planned to have a beat-maker before assembling the band. “We were pissed [about not having the beat-maker] and ended up going with the band. So it’s an idea that came to all of us differently, maybe I spoke about it, but everyone contributed enough and equally to what it is today.”
T.U.G’s abode is also the Digging Thoughts headquarters and home to Zen Groove Project and the well-known Sun Xa Experiment. I’m uncertain if it was the carpeted floors, the graffiti-laden wall behind me, and the number of joints being passed around or simply the people who gave me a distinct feel of serenity and one that inspires creativity.
Being privy to the band’s rehearsals displayed how they benefit from working here, in this space. “It give us a lot of creative freedom, ya bo. Everyone plays a role in expressing themselves and creating ideas; he [pointing at Darkie] doesn’t necessarily play instruments, but he’ll come to me with a hymn and say to me ‘yo, I hear this melody in my head..’ so the creative process just keeps going,” says U. Darkie Umnt’Omnyama adds “Eintlik die dang e deep. It’s the thing you’re feeling-we can talk about it, but can’t explain it. What brought us together here is what we feel,” he says.
Darkie is more of an enigma than the masks covering the band- his dry humour has everyone in stitches when he answers questions and seems to assume the father-figure role in the group. But he and Tony Dangler complement each other pretty well, despite their unique differences which set them far apart. Like Q.Tip and Phife Dawg. While Tony is the animated rambunctious character with a fine twang, uDarkie Umnt’Omnyama is the reserved rapper who has the grit that can only be found in rappers from the hood-but both delivering rhymes with equal intensity and honesty, remaining in the pocket.
Darkie predominantly spits in vernac, while Tony raps in English but both are able to switch. Tony is known from Hip Hop clique Revivolution, which he’s still a member of. “Ain’t nun change man. A few of them niggers [from Revivo] were like ‘yo, what’s happening’ and some of them were like ‘ayt, it’s cool’. Illy pulls through some time to check out what’s happening and also, I guess it’s just a matter of time dawg. Some niggers have time to come through, some don’t. But everyone’s happy. Even Inferno’s back on his band business…it’s good that, that energy is vibrating out.”
T.U.G has only been together since late last year, but have performed at different places to gauge people’s reaction to their sound. They were at Smoking Dragon last year and will be at the Roving Bantu Kitchen in Brixton this Thursday. “So far yonke into e grand ya bo, I don’t recall us ever boring people; they can hear and understand what we’re about,” Darkie tells me.
They’ve also performed at Beverly Hills High school. “You hear that name and think ‘yoh, Beverly Hills’. It’s a school in the Vaal. We performed in front of those naughty kids, which felt like performing at a prison. But they responded well to our sound.”
“There’s a case where we performed for abantu abadala and e message e yaba thinta. We’ve also performed for drunk people and the message also went through. So the contrast of the audience is there,” Tony says.
Their association to Sun Xa puts them at an advantage, of gracing certain stages they wouldn’t have, had they been some random stand-alone band. They performed at one of Durban’s most sophisticated Jazz bars, The Chairman. But they are now carving out their own audiences, to distinguish themselves from Sun Xa, organically though they say.
Paraphrasing one of their songs, Heal Your Soul, Darkie says he wants people to walk away healed by their songs. “Kufanele aphole, phakathi na nga phandle. Whether someone has a headache or a sore finger, they should find healing and be good. This music doesn’t incite any violence or hatred, it makes the black person feel good.”
LAST YEAR’S OPPIKOPPI was a crime scene. And like any other misconduct, the black man is the suspect, but this time it’s him and his music that are to blame for ruining the vibes at long-running festival OppiKoppi. Or at least indirectly.
“Stop trying to cater for everyone. Keep [it] at a targeted audience. Don’t fix what isn’t broken…Oppi was and should stay a Rock festival,” said Marina van der Walt on Facebook.
Despondency came over hippies across South Africa last week when it was announced that this year’s installment of the OppiKoppi music festival has been postponed due to the ridiculous high rate of crime in 2018. The festival has fallen victim to a syndicate of pickpockets that have rampaged South African music events over the last two to three years. From Hip Hop festival Back To The City to the annual youth month celebrations at Basha Uhuru where I was personally a victim of pickpocketing- it’s become a headache for most South African event organisers.
Founded in 1994, OppiKoppi started out as an Afrikaans indie/folk Rock festival attended by a few hundreds of Caucasians from different parts of the country, in a small bar. The line-up would be dominated by alternative Afrikaans Rock artists who were in line with the Voëlvry Movement, which was an Afrikaans movement that sang anti-apartheid songs in that language in the late 80s and early 90s. The kinda boere that would chuck away Die Beeld for Vrye Weekblad.
OppiKoppi has substantially grown over the years attracting alternative African artists, who together came with a bigger and a more diverse audience. The site of Lucky Dube, Vusi Mahlasela and Zim Ngqawana sharing the stage with the likes of Karen Zoid and David Kramer did not make long-standing patrons uncomfortable. It’s the introduction of mainstream African acts such as Afro-Pop trio Malaika, HHP and AKA that left a bitter taste on most people.
“Somehow the Voëlvry Movement that started all of this has been forgotten in the static. OppiKoppi is a living creature born through the wail of the electric guitar man. You can’t change the nature of the beast. You want AKA? You want Cassper? You want all that Hip Hop? Then a new festival must be born that shakes to that rhythm. Why do you want to force the spirit of Rock ‘n Roll to be untrue to itself?” asked Ni-Lou Breytenbach on Facebook, responding to Oppi’s statement of postponement.
Speaking to Tha Bravado, Theresho Selesho who is the CEO of Matchbox Live which organises OppiKoppi, doesn’t think the festival’s growth has also been its Achilles heel. “The Festival has always been about freedom and fostered a safe environment where people can be free to connect, discover new acts, genres and have a great time out in the bushveld, which is a precious experience. We strongly condemn racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination at OppiKoppi. We are very happy with the strides that the festival has made over the years where a diverse audience can all enjoy OppiKoppi.”
But this amalgamation of cultures hasn’t been enjoyed by everyone though. “OppiKoppi has sold out for 20 years running before they took over. Still, the response is ‘genre diversity is something we have always welcomed’ their historical cult-like following is based on a Rock festival, not genre diversity,” said Peet van Wyk.
Over 80 cell phones were reported stolen last year, with items in people’s tents and cars taken, it’s by grace that no sexual assault was reported at the festival. “The crime incidences and stats nearly doubled in the previous year,” Selesho says. “This has in turn taken a lot of freedoms away from our fans and the safety of our audience and their belongings is our main priority.”
Selesho and his team have promised a return of Oppi next year, giving them sufficient time to find ways of guaranteeing people’s safety at the festival. Whether that’ll mean no Hip Hop or even House act, it shall be seen on the 25th chapter of OppiKoppi next year.
FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI is a legit icon. An abrasive visionary, very much deliberate with his truth. His music is sonically enchanting, with the political astuteness to match his swagger. Rightfully celebrated in Africa, and throughout the world, his legacy will stand for a very long time.
But the Kalakuta Queens, or the 27 women that Fela married as they are shabbily known, are not acknowledged for the role they played in the life of Fela Kuti.
In today’s language you could say Fela was woke, but it was a woman that woke him up. Before meeting his American girlfriend Sandra Izsadore, Fela usually laughed at proud black Americans’ insistence on drawing inspiration from the African continent. “She was telling me about Africa, she says ‘don’t I know that Africans taught the Europeans everything they know today’ I say you talking shit. She said ‘there are books’ I say show me a book, she gave me Malcom X to read,” said Fela in an interview talking about how Izsadore put him on knowledge that would give his music meaning.
That is only just one aspect of the impact women have had on Fela. Critically acclaimed Nigerian musical play, Fela and The Kalakuta Queens goes deeper into the life-long bonds Fela had with these women who are unknown to the world, who left their homes to build a life with the off-kilter artist.
“History has not been fair to the Kalakuta Queens because they were his pillar and backbone during his struggle. They stood for him against all odds and they were never remembered. It becomes important to tell their story because a story about Fela is incomplete with his women. History will never forget the Queens with the musical we have which shows the role they play in the struggles with Fela,” says the play’s director, Bolanle Austen-Peters.
Fela and The Kalakuta Queens has been at the South African State Theatre just over a week now, until this coming Sunday. It premiered in Lagos two years ago and has been a global hit since. It is choreographed by Paolo Sisiano and Justin Ezirim, with renowned composer, Kehinde Oretimehin on the production. The character of Fela is projected by both OLaitan “Heavywind” Adeniji and Patrick Diabuah who lead the thirty-six members cast, backed by a fifteen-piece band in the ensemble.
Auten-Peters is an award winning writer and entrepreneur who has established different businesses, including Terra Kulture, a combination of museum, an art gallery and a restaurant all rolled into one in Nigeria, and the Bolanle Austen-Peters Productions (BAP).
Stories of phenomenal black women who found themselves sharing life with great men, are limited to their roles as wives, with society shunning their individuality and unique contribution.
“Well, overtime I have seen different plays written and stories told about Fela. However, there has been little or no emphasis about his women. I have come to realize that it is time for us to tell our own stories so I decided to tell Fela’s story from a different angle. I took a critical look at the life of Fela and I saw that there is a gap that needs to be filled, an uncharted territory that needs to be covered and an amazing story to tell.”
The musical hasn’t only been appreciated by fans of Fela, but also the real life Kalakuta Queens. “Most of the Queens are alive, in fact some of them came on stage to give testimonials when we first staged the musical. They have been very helpful in the course of this production and I must say without them we would not have been able to put this together accurately,” says Austen-Peters. “They gave us real accounts of what transpired in the house and details of how they lived together with Fela.”
“People leave the arena crying because many never understood the things the Queens went through with Fela. The Musical is not only educative but also very informative as the audience gets to be informed about the ordeal between Fela, the Police and his women.”